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How to sew a sweater: from pattern to construction

It’s been a while since last time I’ve been here on the blog. Meanwhile I became mom of Sofia, my job evolved into something new and exciting and I’ve been working on new projects (present and future). Oh, and yeah, there was a global pandemic too. One of those things that puts everything into perspective. Wow, it does feel like it’s been forever since I’ve written my latest post!

Now it’s time to go back and do it…in style! Today’s project puts together the best ingredients of a yummy recipe: I’ll teach you how to sew a sweater: from pattern to construction to make a versatile garment perfect for the season!

What are you going to learn in this tutorial

This is going to be a very special project ’cause it’s going to be you who’ll draft the pattern for the sweater. I’ll share with you how to sew a sweater starting from an existing pattern: the Chantilly blouse sewing pattern. Besides learning the basics of drafting a simple garment, we’ll see how to sew with knits, a fabric which I know often gives you headaches. Whether you have a standard sewing machine or an overlock machine too, in this post you’ll learn how to sew a sweater using the right techniques, from fabric stabilisation to finishes. You’ll also see how to do a neck binding with rib knit fabric (or ribbing) and how to use the same fabric for cuffs and hem. We’ve got a lot of work to do, let’s get started!

How to sew a sweater: from pattern to construction

Execution time: 2/3 hours
Difficulty: easy
Supplies:

  • Chantilly blouse sewing pattern (you can find it here)
  • sweatshirt fabric (read below for details and fabric requirements)
  • coordinated rib knit fabric
  • stretch twin needle (I used Prym 152911)
  • iron-on seam tape interfacing (I used Prym 968235)
  • coordinated thread (I used Gütermann SewAll #586)
  • big-eye needle (or wool needle)
  • sewing machine and overlock machine (optional)
  • ironing tools
  • basic sewing tools

Suggestions for fabric shopping

For this project you’ll need a sweatshirt fabric. I used a French terry from See you at six (available in this shop). Mine is an OekoTex 100-certified cotton from the new S/S collection, available in different prints and colours. For the cuffs, hem and neck binding I used a coordinated off-white ribbing fabric from the same brand. These fabrics are so soft and a pleasure to sew as well as to wear!

1

Draft the sweater pattern

To draft the sweater pattern we’ll start from the Chantilly blouse sewing pattern and we’ll make some changes to turn it into a loose-fit sweater with kimono sleeves. This way, you’ll be able to customise many details such as fitting, neckline and the length of the sleeves as well as the sweater.

How to choose your size

Take your bust and waist circumference measurements and pick the closest size (or sizes) from the size chart you find in the instruction booklet. If your measurements fall in between sizes and you’re not sure which size to pick, go for the bigger one to give the sweater the oversize look.
Looking at the size chart my size would be a Small but I wanted more of a looser fit so I decided to start from the pattern in size Medium.

How to draft the sweater pattern

To draft the sweater pattern you need parts 1 and 2 of the Chantilly blouse sewing pattern, i.e. the front and version 1 of the back. Trace both parts onto a new piece of paper in the chosen size and follow the instructions in this guide to obtain the sewing pattern for the sweater.

Here’s a few additional tips you may find useful:

  • Decide the overall length for the sweater. Measure from the base of neckline to your desired hem at CF. I suggest you take all these measurements while wearing your Chantilly blouse in front of a mirror. It’ll give you the exact reference of where the neck and shoulder points are.
  • Decide the cuff and hem width for the ribbing: I opted for 5 cm (2″) which is pretty standard.
  • Decide whether you want to change the Chantilly blouse neckline or not as to have less of a scooped neckline. I decided to narrow the neckline only at the high neck point going 1 cm (3/8″) in. You can customise this to your own taste.
  • Decide your sleeve length. Measure from the high neck point going down to your desired length. You can do short sleeves, elbow sleeves or long sleeves as I did. Should you want long sleeves, measure from the high neck point to the wrist slightly bending your elbow and going around it to take a correct measurement.
  • Decide your cuff circumference on the finished garment: wrap the measuring tape around your wrist (or your arm where your sleeve ends) and measure the circumference there.
  • Draft the back of the sweater pattern starting from the front as explained in the guide.
  • Calculate the measurements for the rib knit rectangles for cuffs and hem. You can find the details in the guide too.
  • Decide the neck binding width: I went for a pretty standard 1.5 cm (5/8″).

2

Fabric requirements

As the Chantilly sweater has kimono sleeves (i.e. sleeves that are one-piece with the bodice), you should consider this when computing your fabric requirements according to what you did at step 1. You have to cut both the front and the back of the sweater on the fold. To calculate how much sweatshirt fabric you need do the following:

  • measure the total length of the sweater front as shown in the picture below. Start from the high neck point and go down to the hem.
  • double this measure (as you need to cut also the back)
  • add about 10 cm (4″) to account for fabric shrinkage at the first wash (you should pre-shrink your fabric before cutting it) and to pattern placement on fabric.

For the rib knit consider the fabric width you have available (mine is 110 cm – 43″) and the measurements for the rectangles you calculated at step 1. You’ll cut these pieces with the long side perpendicular to the selvage edge (see cutting layouts below) so you can easily calculate how much fabric you need in your case. Probably it won’t be more than 30/40 cm (1/4-1/2 yd).

3

Cut the fabric for the sweater

Now that the sewing pattern is ready, it’s time to cut it out of fabric. Place the pattern pieces as shown in the cutting layout below. You have to cut 1 piece for the front and 1 for the back both on the fold. Fabric should be folded lengthwise with the selvage edges together. Cut also the ribbing for the cuffs, hem and neck binding.

4

Stabilise the fabric

When you work with jersey it is always a good idea to stabilise the fabric on neckline and shoulders right after cutting before to proceed with the construction of the garment. This will make sure that these parts won’t stretch out of shape when sewn. For this step you can use an iron-on seam tape interfacing with the proper width (I used the one from Prym which is 1 cm (3/8″)-wide).

Place the tape 6-7mm (1/4″) away from the fabric edge along the neckline. Snip into it to let it adapt to the neck curve and press it down with the iron.

As the shoulder and sleeve are one piece, we’ll stabilise only the first part. Cut two 10 cm (4″) stripes of tape and press them along the shoulder on both sides starting from the high neck point.

5

Setup your machine(s) to sew the sweater

To sew the sweater you can either use a sewing machine only of an overlock machine (serger) too. Either way I suggest you do a test of the machine(s) setup on fabric scraps to make sure you’ve got it right.

If you use the sewing machine only

Use a stretch or jersey needle of adequate size (i.e. Prym stretch needles 152340) and choose an elastic stitch for all structural seams (most modern sewing machine have one or more pre-selected elastic stitches, if that’s not your case you can just use a narrow and medium-length zig-zag stitch). To finish the seams you can either: a) use a zig-zag and trim off the excess of fabric afterwards, b) use an overedge stitch suitable for knits (please refer to your sewing machine manual for further details) and trim the excess off or c) leave the seams unfinished (knits don’t fray as wovens do). For the neck binding topstitching either use a zig-zag or, as I did, the twin needle option if your machine supports it.

If you use an overlock machine

You can stitch all structural seams directly with your overlock machine, sewing and finishing the edges at once. Adjust the differential feed and the cutting width appropriately for your fabric. Even try different setups until you’re happy with the result. Use anyway the sewing machine for topstitching the rib neck binding or, if you own one, a coverstitch machine.

6

Finish the sweater neckline

First step for sewing the sweater is to sew the shoulder/sleeve seam on one side. Place the front and back of the sweater right sides together aligning them at the shoulder/sleeve seam. Pin in place and sew with a 1.5 cm (5/8″) seam allowance. Press the seams to the back. Fold the rib binding stripe lengthwise and press it in place.

Place the rib binding on the neckline starting from the still-open shoulder seam aligning the open side to the neck edge. Stitch throught the 3 layers of fabric with a 1 cm (3/8″) seam allowance. As you can see from the picture below I pinned the whole binding down before sewing. However, I did realise rib knits tend to stretch quite a lot while sewing so it’s best to pin just the beginning and slowly align the stripe to the neckline while sewing.

Press the binding away from the neckline (and the seam allowance towards it).

Topstitch the neckline to secure the binding using a coordinated or contrasting thread. Stitch a few millimeters (1/16″) away from the seam using the twin needle option of your sewing machine. If your model does not support this option, simply use a zig-zag. Make sure you catch the seam allowance below while sewing. This way your neck binding won’t turn when the sweater is worn.

Place the front and the back of the sweater right sides together, aligning them along the other shoulder/sleeve seam. Pin in place and stitch with a 1.5 cm (5/8″) seam allowance making sure your neck binding seam coincides on both sides when sewn. If you’re using an overlock machine secure the chain by threading it into a big-eye needle (or a wool needle) and back into the overlock seam as shown in the picture below. Then trim off the excess. Press the seams towards the back of the garment.

7

Sew the cuffs and sleeves of the sweater

It’s now time to sew the cuffs to the base of the sleeves. Fold the two rectangles in half lengthwise and press them in place. Make sure the base of your sleeve is straight (it often tends to stretch in the middle where the sleeve seam ends), if not straighten it up with ruler and cutter as shown in the picture.

Place the cuff on the right side of fabric at the base of one of the sleeves with the open size towards the base. Pin it down at the beginning of the seam and stitch with a 1.5 cm (5/8″) seam allowance as before, aligning the fabrics as you go. It’s likely that your cuff will end up longer than the base of the sleeve, if so trim the excess off with some scissors.

Press the cuff away from the sleeve. Repeat with the other cuff.

7

Sew sides and hem of the sweater

Let’s proceed with sewing the sides of the sweater. Place front and back right sides together aligning them at the base of the sleeve all the way down the hem. Pin in place and sew with a 1.5 cm (5/8″) seam allowance. Press the seams towards the back of the garment. For the sleeve you can make this easier by using a tailor’s ham.

Assemble the hem rib knit stitching the two rectangles together on one of the short sides using a 1.5 cm (5/8″) seam allowance. Fold the ribbing in half lengthwise and press it in place. Place the ribbing on the hem of the sweater on the right side of fabric. Make sure the open side of the rib stripe is aligned to the hem raw edge. Pin in place starting from the open side and stopping at the other side where the seam is already stitched. Make sure the side seams of ribbing and sweater coincide in this point. Leave the rest unpinned and stitch with a 1.5 cm (5/8″) seam allowance along the whole hem. Trim off the excess ribbing as done before.

Place the front and the back of the sweater right sides together aligning them along the remaining open side. Pin in place and stitch with a 1.5 cm (5/8″) seam allowance making sure the cuff and the hem seams coincide on both sides. Press the rib hem away from the sweater. If you used the overlock machine secure all chains as explained before.

Enjoy your new Chantilly sweater!

Here’s your Chantilly sweater, isn’t it lovely? In a few hours you’ve been able to make yourself a minimal and versatile sweater perfect for all seasons. It looks great with jeans for a casual and comfy look. I’ve already enjoyed mine for a nice walk in the garden and I think it’s just perfect!

Making this project you’ll probably have some fabric leftovers: find a creative way to reuse it not to waste any bit. I made a little sweater for my 1-year old baby girl. I adapted the pattern I found in a book for kids and made an elbow-sleeve version ’cause there wasn’t enough fabric for a full-size sleeve. Isn’t it cute?

I hope this project will inspire you as much as it did for me. If you’d like to sew yourself a Chantilly sweater but you haven’t got the Chantilly blouse sewing pattern yet, you can find the PDF version here in my shop. And when you’re done don’t forget to show me your creation tagging TYP on Instagram with the hashtag #ChantillySweater.
What do you think of this project? Have you got any question to ask? Tell me in the comments below!

Ciao ciao!
Simona

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